Weah's Theory of fraudulent elections


By Mohamedu F Jones


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
November 18, 2005


Media reports out of Monrovia indicated that Ambassador George Weah gave a statement following the election, which laid out the theory of his claim of fraudulent elections and outlined the thematic underpinnings of his allegations that the outcome of the November 8th elections was bogus – that he was cheated of victory. Analysis of Mr. Weah’s statement lays bares the spuriousness and speciousness of his contentions.

It was reported that Ambassador Weah stated unequivocally: There is no doubt that the run-off election was rigged.” Actually, there is strong evidence, as presented in the reports submitted by several international observers that the elections were free, fair, transparent, and credible. Neither Mr. Weah nor his supporters have presented any substantive evidence to counter or contradict the findings of international observers.

The CDC’s Standard Bearer went on to say: “There mere fact that we have in our possession more than thirty ballots, pre-marked for the Unity Party, forcibly taken from election officers at the polls on Election Day, and exhibited to all Liberians through both the print and electronic media are strong evidence that the run-off election was rigged.” The “thirty ballots” that Mr. Weah said he had in his possession are what is called demonstrative evidence. Demonstrative evidence is meant to clarify the facts. What specific fact were the so-called 30 ballots meant to clarify?

A major defect of the charge is that Ambassador Weah patently failed to identify at which polling place these ballots were “forcibly taken from election officers.” This was an essential evidentiary requirement to lend validity to the claim. Identifying the specific polling place would also enable investigators to examine what occurred at that polling place.

Additionally, this allegation begs the question – what action did CDC’s representative take at the polling place where this alleged irregularity occurred? Were there international observers present; if so, was this situation brought to their attention? It is noteworthy that in this statement Ambassador Weah admitted that someone violated the elections law by “forcibly” taking items away from election officers.

Ambassador Weah stated further, “the discrepancies on the tally sheets from polling places all over the country show that the frauds pervaded the entire process.” If there were discrepancies at tallying centers, why did CDC representatives at the tallying center not act then and there? Under the Polling Procedures issued by the National Elections Commission (NEC), it is stated that representatives of parties and observers have an important role to help ensure that the election is free, fair and transparent.” The various Election Procedures issued by the NEC outline openly what roles party representatives had in the process.

The Procedures further provide that party representatives may witness all processes in the polling places except the act of a vote recording his/her vote.” Importantly, the Procedure entitled party representatives to bring to the attention of the Presiding Officers their concerns regarding procedures followed in the polling place and any suspected irregularities.” Ambassador Weah failed to explain what actions his party representatives took in respect to any irregularities that occurred at the unnamed polling place from which the 30 ballots were forcibly taken. Unless the only action was to “forcibly” take the “pre-printed ballots.”
Ambassador Weah referenced a number of precincts, citing the registered voters, the number of polling places, tally sheets and the number of ballots received by those precincts. He concludes: “What these two tally sheets reveal is that the National Elections Commission issued to the election officers ballots far in excess of what were required for voting at each Voting Precinct. The ostensible reason is that the excess ballots would be marked for the Unity Party and stuffed in the ballot boxes.” Even if the facts are precisely as Mr. Weah contends and even if seen in the light most favorable and supportive of his claim, no rule of evidence would accept that what he presented supports the conclusion he arrived at. It is too a huge leap.

NEC’s Procedures provide that at polling places, the Presiding Officer shall inspect ballot boxes to ensure they are empty and ask “electoral observers and representatives to confirm that it is empty.” This means that at each polling place, international and domestic observers as well as representatives of Mr. Weah’s party and Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf’s party confirmed before voting began that ballot boxes were empty. The boxes would then be sealed on all sides and the sealing documented, including by parties’ representatives.

Ambassador Weah emphasized during his statement that ballots from different polling places were issued to “another Polling Place.” Under the Procedure, this was permissible: NEC’s Procedures state: “If a polling place within a voting precinct runs out of ballots, the Presiding Officer will request extra ballots from a neighbouring polling place’s stock. These extra ballot papers must be recorded by the Presiding Officer on the Presiding Officer’s Worksheet (form PO1).” It was therefore perfectly legal for polling places to send ballots to “another Polling Place.” The required documentation of such transfers is the Presiding Officer’s Worksheet, not the “tally sheet” which the ambassador waved about. It is important to note that party representatives and observers are permitted to sign the work sheet as witnesses, and presumably Ambassador Weah’s representatives signed Presiding Officer’s worksheets where they were, including those documenting ballot transfers.

Under the Procedure, when voting ends, the Presiding Officer is required to seal the ballot boxes and write the seal number on the worksheet. Party representatives and electoral observers were permitted to write the seal numbers also. The Counting Procedure of NEC states: The counting process should be organized in such a way that observers and representatives can clearly see all stages.” The Counting Procedure states that it is important that “party representatives and observers witness the opening of ballot boxes as this stage of the process is vital for the procedural integrity of the process as a whole.” Ambassador Weah’s representatives were there when ballot boxes were shown to be empty, were there as people voted and were there went the ballots were counted. He needs to explain how ballot boxes were being stuffed in the presence of his representatives.
In concluding, Ambassador Weah proclaimed: “The obvious evidence of this massive fraud is the low voter turn-out at every polling center; and yet the NEC's preliminary results reveal a percentage turnout of voters comparable to the October 11 elections.” It is very unclear what the import of this statement is, but it clearly has no significance and is actually meaningless. It is one of those statements that sound like one is making a point when they have actually not said anything. Nonetheless this point needs to be addressed.

NEC’s statistics show that 1,352,730 Liberians were registered to vote. In October, 1,012,673 or 74.8% of registered voters cast ballots in the elections. Of all those who voted, 973,790 ballots were determined to be valid. In reality therefore, 71.9% of total registered voters decided the October elections. In contrast, during the November run-off, 825,716 or 61% of registered voters cast ballots. Of all those who voted, 805,572 ballots were determined to be valid. In reality therefore, 59.5% of total registered voters decided the November elections. These statistics show that 168,218 or 16.6% of registered voters who had voted in October did not vote in November. The rate of voter turnout in November was 19.5 percent less than in October. By any measure, that is a significant difference, and voter turnout for the two elections cannot reasonably or rationally be considered “comparable.”

Finally, the complaint procedure regarding “incidents that are alleged to have occurred during the voting or counting must also be entered into the log book of the relevant polling station and be submitted in writing to the relevant county electoral magistrate” within 24 hours of the occurrence of the event. It is no wonder that there are no reports that the allegations which were dramatically presented by Ambassador Weah in his statement were entered into the log books of the polling stations where they supposedly occurred or submitted to county electoral magistrates within 24 hours. One can reasonably surmise that perhaps they were not documented in polling stations’ log books or presented to electoral magistrates because they did not happen.
Ambassador Weah did not offer a credible case in support of his contention of fraud in his recent statement.